It’s a bold statement to make, but there’s simply no other game that offers anywhere near the level of depth to its secondary characters as Mass Effect does.

Unlike other RPGs, companions aren’t just combat allies or things that follow behind you constantly jabbering. Each and every one is a fully realised member of your team and integral to their respective game’s story. After discovering them, they take residence on your ship and develop their own relationship with both you and other crew members, as well as offering huge chunks of side story material.

Some characters span across multiple games, while others are only present for one. Some die, some move on to other things within the galaxy. Some have potential to change the entire outcome of a story arc, while some simply offer some conversation between missions. The variety is staggering, and the level of work that it takes to craft just one of them easily rivals that of Commander Shepard.

Over the course of the first three games a total of 22 squad mates are obtainable, and it seems we’ve said goodbye to them all for good. With Andromeda looming on the horizon, it seems now is as good of a time as any to pay homage to them all with a definitive ranking.

Warning: If you plan on playing Mass Effect 1-3 before Andromeda launches, spoilers for all three games follow.


21. Nyreen Kandros

Race: Turian
First Appeared: Mass Effect 3 Omega DLC

nyreen

Easily the most forgettable companion in the series, Nyreen played a minuscule part in the Mass Effect story, appearing only in the penultimate DLC for the third game of the trilogy.

She was only able to accompany Shepard on a single mission, and didn’t leave much of a mark on the story, either.

She is the only female Turian in the series so far, and call it harsh, but it almost felt like she was shoehorned in to be exactly that and nothing more.

20. Aria T’Loak

Race: Asari
First Appeared: Mass Effect 2

aria

First seen in the early stages of Mass Effect 2, Aria T’Loak is the fearsome de facto controller of the lawless space station, Omega. She grabs Shepard’s attention right off the bat and warns him of her one rule: “Don’t fuck with Aria.”

While her part in Mass Effect 2 pretty much ends once Shepard leaves Omega, she reappears as a temporary squad member in the Omega DLC for Mass Effect 3, wherein she asks Shepard’s help to take back Omega from Cerberus, who have seized control.

As a squad mate, she’s a powerful biotic that disposes of all Cerberus mercs with ease. Unfortunately, she’s not a fully fledged member of the team, and that’s the only time you get to witness her wrath, leaving her in a lowly position in the rankings.

19. Samara/Morinth

Race: Asari
First Appeared: Mass Effect 2

SamaraMorinth.png

Samara and Morinth are joint in 19th place because it’s only possible to have one or the other.

Mother and daughter, they’re both relatively forgettable. Their stories are intertwined – Morinth is on the run from Samara and the latter has asked Shepard for help. When it’s said and done, one of them dies and the other comes to live aboard the Normandy.

The loyalty mission in itself isn’t terrible, but the characters are bland and have very little aura about them. Neither are particularly fun to use in missions or in combat either.

18. James Vega

Race: Human
First Appeared: Mass Effect 3

james

If Nyreen was shoved into Mass Effect 3 purely to be the only female Turian, similar comparisons can be made for James Vega. Unlike other male characters, he’s a bog standard marine cliche with a character design that harks back to Marcus Fenix from Gears of War. He has a huge bulking physique and likes shooting stuff, but that’s really as deep as he goes, and it could be said that he’s there to be the alien arse-kicker and nothing more.

He is, however, the first squad mate on this list that has his own side story, which is why he’s lower down on the pecking order.

That in itself was fairly weak, but it at least offered some extra content and some purpose to Vega, and showed that there was another side to him. Unfortunately we never got to see it.

17. Jacob Taylor

Race: Human
First Appeared: Mass Effect 2

jacob

After saving Shepard’s life at the very beginning of Mass Effect 2, Jacob quickly becomes an afterthought. As a Cerberus yes-man with no biotic powers or particularly useful abilities, he’s not too much fun to take on missions, and doesn’t offer any useful or interesting insight outside of them.

He quickly becomes loyal to Shepard and does give some counterbalance to Miranda’s arguments, but overall his boring personality and monotonous voice leave him straggling at the lower end of the list.

He does earn himself one small reprieve for his loyalty mission, though, which involves Shepard helping to find out what happened to his father. Although it wasn’t the most exciting part of the game and didn’t affect much of the main storyline, it was a nice side plot in its own right.

16. Kasumi Goto

Race: Human
First Appeared: Mass Effect 2 Stolen Memory DLC

kasumi

Although only available after playing the Stolen Memory DLC for Mass Effect 2, Kasumi had some great moments in the series and, depending on choices made, had potential to feature heavily in the series’ ending.

A master thief with the ability to cloak and is partial to assassinating, Kasumi is the first truly badass character on this list. Her first appearance involved a cool mission that featured Shepard getting mixed up in some thievery of his own. Combat was minimal, and instead there was simple but fun puzzles to figure out. A nice change of pace.

She appears again in Mass Effect 3, albeit not as a part of the squad. Even so, she oozes attitude and shows a fear of nothing, putting her above some of the more heavily featured characters.

15. Zaeed Massani

Race: Human
First Appeared: Mass Effect 2: Zaeed – The Price of Revenge DLC

zaeed

A product of the Mass Effect 2 launch DLC, Zaeed would not have been a part of the game for everybody. For those with the DLC, he was a part of the team for almost the entirety of Mass Effect 2, complete with his own loyalty mission and not a bad set of skills and weapons.

Zaeed was a mercenary and bounty hunter who’d been put in contact with Shepard by the Illusive Man. Not showing a single care about the Collectors or the missing human colonies, he was in it purely for the credits. He becomes loyal if Shepard assists him in tracking down an old friend turned enemy – the leader of the Blue Suns mercenary pack. Shepard later learned that Zaeed was the co-founder of the group, cementing his badass persona.

His end fate varies greatly based on decisions made in Mass Effect 2, but he could potentially reappear in Mass Effect 3 and in some endings was seen enjoying the apocalypse from afar.

14. Ashley Williams

Race: Human
First Appeared: Mass Effect

ashley

One of Shepard’s very first squad mates, Ashley was more of an annoyance than a memorable character.

She has very little impact on the events of the first game, and has a 50% chance of dying in martyrdom at the end.

Should she survive, she reappears in Mass Effect 2 showing nothing but disdain for Shepard – her former commander – because of his working with the Illusive Man. She can rejoin the group in Mass Effect 3 if the player chooses, but at that point it’s understandable if you preferred to just send her on her way.

13. Kaiden Alenko

Race: Human
First Appeared: Mass Effect

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Kaiden is the counterpart to Ashley. He’s the other squad mate that Shepard gains right at the beginning of Mass Effect.

He’s a weird one, because although there’s nothing strictly bad about him, it’s tough to think of anything that really propels him any higher than 13th.

He’s just kind of there throughout the first game. He’s a good soldier, believes in doing the right thing and will follow orders. Depending on who Shepard chooses, he also has a 50% chance to die in martyrdom at the end of Mass Effect. If he lives, he takes the place of Ashley in Mass Effect 3.

12. EDI

Race: Synthetic/AI
First Appeared: Mass Effect 2

edi

Starting out as an unwanted and disliked AI for the Normandy Mk.II in Mass Effect 2, EDI doesn’t become a fully fledged, able-bodied member of the team until Mass Effect 3.

After disabling a Cerberus mech on Mars and taking it back to the Normandy, EDI takes control of it and becomes a sultry robot with a sexy voice.

She’s not particularly interesting as a combat partner, but her relationship with Joker became a highlight of the camaraderie on the ship, which was always fun to check up on between missions. Being witness to his romance attempts after his initial disdain for the AI was an example of the great character development and storytelling that Bioware is known for.

11. Miranda Lawson

Race: Human
First Appeared: Mass Effect 2

miranda

Along with Jacob, Miranda is one of the first squad mates that Shepard picks up in Mass Effect 2. Similar to her male counterpart, she’s a Cerberus yes-woman and holds no bars when showing her loyalty to the Illusive Man and his plans.

In contrast to Jacob, she remains an interesting and integral part of the story. She’s a potential love interest, too, and perhaps the easiest one to pursue. Her most fascinating trait, though, is her loyalty and watching it slowly transition from Cerberus to Shepard over the course of the game. Better yet, she’s chock full of biotic implants that make her deadly in combat.

This is all propped up by her intriguing loyalty mission that involves Shepard getting mixed up in some deeply rooted family affairs, where it’s revealed that Miranda was genetically created by her father, not born from a mother.

Providing she survives Mass Effect 2, she appears again in Mass Effect 3 as a side character but barely misses out on breaking the Top 10 of this list due in no small part to some stiff competition from the remaining candidates.

10. Javik

Race: Prothean
First Appeared: Mass Effect 3 From Ashes DLC

Javik.jpg

Javik is the Zaeed of Mass Effect 3, in that he only appears in the game if the player owned the launch day DLC, From Ashes.

He only appears in the third game and doesn’t have a huge impact on the overall plot, but as the only Prothean character in the entire series, he stands out above most others. After waking him from his 50,000 year stasis, he provides countless tidbits of information on the Protheans and Reapers through his dialogue, as well as missing links in the history and lore of the galaxy.

In combat he has a powerful set of skills as well as his Prothean rifle, which can inflict heavy damage. He joins the fight willingly, determined to get vengeance for his fallen comrades and the entirety of his species who were wiped out by the Reapers.

It’s easy to feel empathy for Javik trying to adapt to the new world. He shows initial difficulty, often referring to the current dominant species as ‘primitive’. His change as the game goes on is one of the best feel good developments in the series.

9. Urdnot Wrex

Race: Krogan
First Appeared: Mass Effect

wrex

Wrex is given a position in the Top 10 purely because he’s the only memorable character that refuses to just step in line and do what Shepard says.

He has his own agenda, and the Normandy crew are just a means to an end.

He’s mean, grouchy and isn’t afraid of killing if it means serving his own cause.

While some other characters started out the same, they quickly take heed. Wrex is a rebel until the very end. For some people, he meets his end in the first game when Shepard is forced to kill him after repeated warnings to stand down. If you’re one of the people who pulled the trigger on him, it’s understandable. You’ll receive no judgement here.

If you manage to talk him down, he reappears in Mass Effect 2 and 3 as a leader and authority figure for the entire Krogan species. Good on him for turning his life around.

8. Jack

Race: Human
First Appeared: Mass Effect 2

jack

After being broken out of an Alcatraz-like space prison in Mass Effect 2, Jack agrees to work with Shepard in stopping the collectors in exchange for refuge on the Normandy and a favour. That favour is her loyalty mission, whereby she wants to plant a bomb in her old torture cell. Even then, her loyalty isn’t exactly secured – though she remains to help with the suicide mission regardless.

Jack oozes attitude and disrespect for authority, which shows in her character design and fashion choices. She’s a rebel, a loner and a fighter – the latter being backed up by her insane biotic powers. She’s adept at using Shockwave and Pull, making her an ideal combat partner in almost all missions.

Providing she survives Mass Effect 2, she can be encountered again in Mass Effect 3 as a very different person. Now a teacher, she trains biotics for the upcoming war, remarking to Shepard that thanks to him she’s now a dependable human being.

Therein lies what made Jack a fantastic squad mate – her transition from careless criminal to letting her feelings seep out enough to do her bit to save the galaxy.

7. Tali

Race: Quarian
First Appeared: Mass Effect

Tali.png

The only Quarian squad member across all three games, Tali is nothing short of a brilliant character. She recurs across all three games in the series, and is one of the two people that can actually join the Normandy crew in all three, as well.

With no biotic powers, Tali is instead a tech expert. It’s possible for her to die in Mass Effect 2, but it would be a travesty to the rest of the series, and you’d miss out on one of the greatest scenes in gaming history that takes place in Mass Effect 3.

Her personal mission spans across the entire series as she tries to complete her Quarian pilgrimage and play her part to bring her people home from the Migrant Fleet. In addition, the Quarian war against the Geth is told in no small part through Tali, and ends up being one of the more compelling inter-species wars in the game.

Depending on other choices made, her scene with Shepard overlooking Rannoch in Mass Effect 3 is a captivating finale to her story arch and a beautiful goodbye to one of the three most loyal friends Shepard ever has.

6. Thane Krios

Race: Drell
First Appeared: Mass Effect 2

thane

Thane doesn’t play a massive part in the series as a whole, and it’s possible that you’ll only encounter him in Mass Effect 2.

He mainly gets points for being as cool as a cucumber, but he also comes with a fun little loyalty mission and a cool ammo unlock for completing it.

The thing that’s immediately noticeable about Thane is his awesome character design and voice. Upon speaking to him, he’s instantly likeable and Shepard finds out that he’s not to be trifled with, either. Part assassin, part biotic and part fighter, he’s the full package and it’s a crime we didn’t get to spend more time with him.

Thane is dying in Mass Effect 2, but it’s possible for Shepard to encounter him in Mass Effect 3 and have a conversation with him on the Citadel. In fact, it’s Thane who alerts Shepard that something fishy is going down.

Thane plays his final part in the saga later on, when he duels the Cerberus Assassin Kai Leng. He is run through by Leng’s blade and dies a hero in the company of his son and Shepard. Revenge is served towards the end of the game when Shepard defeats Leng, telling him ‘that was for Thane, you son of a bitch! One of the saddest deaths in the series.

5. Mordin Solus

Race: Salarian
First Appeared: Mass Effect 2

Mad Professor

Where would anyone be without Mordin Solus?

In Mass Effect 2, he successfully cures the disease plaguing the residents of Omega, before coming aboard the Normandy and successfully finding a way to stop the collectors. Without Mordin, humanity might have ended before that game was over.

Furthermore, he is responsible for all the research and upgrades that are performed in order to survive the suicide mission. Should he survive it, he’s the hero once again in Mass Effect 3 despite not being a full member of the team. If he dies in Mass Effect 2, another incredible scene is missed out on.

It appears that Mordin and some other Salarians started feeling guilt for their part in implementing the genophage and have set to work on curing and reversing it. Shepard can decide to help Mordin or sabotage his efforts in exchange for Salarian support in the war. If Shepard allows him to implement the cure, he heads off into the fiery building, looks back and claims it has to be him, because someone else would get it wrong. True enough.

4. Grunt

Race: Krogan
First Appeared: Mass Effect 2

Grunt.jpg

How can Grunt not be in the Top 5? One of only two Krogan that can join Shepard’s team, Grunt is easily the most likeable. Engineered and grown in a tank by a Warlord Okeer, Grunt is the ‘purest’ and most perfect Krogan to ever exist.

After some initial aggression when Shepard first opens his tank, Grunt becomes a part of the team and learns to follow orders. In the later stages of Mass Effect 2, he even becomes loyal, seeking advice and friendship from Shepard.

Grunt has a humourous little side quest that sees him essentially going through Krogan puberty, but instead of learning to lust and control sexual urges, he’s struggling to control his violent tendencies.

Providing he survives Mass Effect 2’s suicide mission, Grunt returns to face the Reapers in the third game – but not as a squad mate. Unfazed by the Reaper threat, Grunt just wants to fight tough enemies or die trying. How can a friend like that not be in the Top 5?

3. Garrus Vakarian

Race: Turian
First Appeared: Mass Effect

garrus

The undisputed poster-boy of Mass Effect squad mates, Garrus is with Shepard through thick and thin and is the second of two people that joins the crew for all three games.

He is, without a doubt, Shepard’s closest friend throughout the series as well as being an excellent sniper, making him a neccessity for many missions throughout.

His exact parts in the story are too plentiful for a list like this, but his presence brings side missions that are both full of lore and integral to the plot. His Mass Effect Wiki page is one of the longest of any other character, and he’s also been at the center of some comic book storylines.

Garrus has a calm and collective nature, never once showing unnecessary violence or impoliteness towards members of the crew – Shepard especially. When it comes to saving Earth, Garrus is right there with us, which made the mission to save Palaven feel all the more important.

No matter which Mass Effect 3 ending is chosen, Garrus is featured strongly in the final cutscene, highlighting just how loved and significant he was to all three games.

2. Legion

Race: Geth
First Appeared: Mass Effect 2

legion

A unique geth, Legion is found during a Mass Effect 2 mission that involves exploring a derelict Reaper. It assists the team against some husks, but is eventually disabled by one and taken aboard the Normandy for interrogation.

It’s no small feat that the #2 position on this list is taken by a robot – and one that would usually be an enemy. It’s tough not to become overly attached to Legion, due in no small part to his total obliviousness to human behaviour. Referring to Shepard as ‘Shepard-Commander’, he’s loyal through and through and even wears a chunk of N7 armour.

Like Tali, Legion can shed a hell of a lot of light on the Geth and their war with the Quarians.

Should he survive, he plays a huge part in resolving said war in Mass Effect 3, potentially sacrificing himself to end it and let the Quarians return to their home world. This particular act sparked one of the most loved and often quoted scenes in modern gaming history… does this unit have a soul?

1. Liara T’Soni

Race: Asari
First Appeared: Mass Effect

liara

Here we are at #1, and it might be surprising to see Liara’s big, beautiful blue face above.

Despite being absent for much of Mass Effect 2, Liara plays several huge parts of the overall storyline and is behind some of the most memorable and crucial plot points. Her Shadow Broker plot in particular is a standout, and even had its own DLC centred around it where Liara actually takes up the mantle.

She has countless fascinating moments of conversation, and the lore that can be extracted by talking to her is tremendous. In fact, it’s Liara who first gives us information on the Protheans, long before Javik is on the scene.

As a combat partner she’s fierce and tough, combining her biotic powers with a hand cannon. For all us male Sheps out there, it’s hard to argue that she’s by far the best looking alien in all three games, too. She can be romanced in all three games, and the relationship she develops with Shepard is unparalleled – personally and professionally.

In Mass Effect 3 she insists on assisting Shepard during his mission on Thessia – the Asari home planet. While not completely down to Liara’s presence, that particular mission can be regarded as the coolest and most visually striking in the game.

Liara is also the only character in the entire game to leave a legacy for future civilisations. If Shepard doesn’t activate the crucible, a hologram of Liara – a product of her time capsule project – can be seen in the final cutscenes, passing on the galaxy’s knowledge to the next generation of species.

While Liara wasn’t always the funniest, most badass or friendliest, all of the best moments of the entire series are tied to her in some way, making her the undisputed best companion in all of Mass Effect.

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